Estimates from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) have shown that 2,500 to 3,000 physicians are preparing to leave Turkey by the end of the year as their demands of the government for manageable workloads and increased security and pay continue to go unmet, the Dünya news website reported on Wednesday.
According to TTB data, 231 doctors applied for a certificate of good standing in advance of moving abroad in July alone, totaling 1,402 for the first seven months of the year. The data show that the number of physicians who received the certificate in 2021 has been reached in the first seven months of 2022.
The figures are expected to increase further, Dünya said, with the TTB estimating that 2,500 to 3,000 physicians were preparing to leave the country by the end of the year.
Many blame the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the exodus of doctors.
Erdoğan in a speech in early March condemned an increasing number of Turkish doctors who are choosing to move to the private sector or go abroad for better job opportunities, saying they are free to go and that Turkey will find ways to make up for their loss.
After facing an angry reaction from the medical community, thousands of whose members took to the streets on the occasion of Medicine Day, marked every March 14 in Turkey, Erdoğan later praised the efforts of doctors, especially during the pandemic, and said, “Turkey is always in need of its doctors and is indebted to them.”
Erdoğan’s remarks came amid protests calling for more manageable workloads, increased security and an increase in pay due to the heavy workload caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising cases of physical violence against healthcare employees and soaring inflation –- registered at a 24-year high, according to official figures -– that reduce doctors’ salaries close to the minimum wage.
The doctors’ departures are a sad indictment of Erdoğan, who burnished his own reputation by expanding universal health care over his 20 years in power. But the strains of the overhauls wrought by Erdoğan, in addition to those brought by the pandemic and increasing inflation, have undermined the very professionals on whom the health system depends.